Meralco price hike reasonable, says Palace

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Malacañang on Wednesday defended the decision of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to increase its generation charge, saying the rate adjustment of P2 to P3 per kilowatt-hour was neither “arbitrary” nor “unreasonable.”

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma echoed Meralco’s contention that the rate increase would be “temporary” because of the “maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas plant that was scheduled from Nov. 11 to Dec. 10.”

“There are laws. There is a process that we follow,” he told reporters in Filipino, his briefing interrupted by a brief power outage.

The Meralco rate increase comes in the wake of President Aquino’s declaration of a state of national calamity on Nov. 11, three days after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” made landfall. Packing winds of up to 250 kph, the monster typhoon killed at least 5,600 people.

Under Republic Act No. 7581, the declaration of a state of national calamity imposes a price freeze on basic goods and commodities.

Even so, prices of basic commodities like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and other fuel products have shot up.

Coloma was responding to a question on whether the Palace could exercise “moral suasion” and convince Meralco and other businesses to at least postpone price adjustments in the wake of the devastation wrought by Yolanda.

“What I can tell you is this: In all his decisions on issues involving the daily welfare of the people, the President’s primary consideration is the well-being of every Filipino,” he said.

Malacañang sought not to sound helpless over the possibility of higher power rates in areas hit by Yolanda, given the destruction wrought on power transmission and distribution facilities.

“We recognize the grave calamity that affected our people in Eastern Visayas and this government doesn’t want to add to their suffering through unreasonable burdens,” Coloma said.

He said the government would “study steps that could be taken” to minimize the impact of a possible power rate adjustment on typhoon victims.

“But what’s important is we have seen, that even as we speak, electricity in downtown Tacloban City has been restored in advance before [Energy] Secretary [Jericho] Petilla’s promise to restore electricity in many devastated areas by Dec. 24,” he said.

Coloma said Metro Manila, part of Meralco’s franchise area, was not among those hit by the typhoon and thus, was not covered by the price control on basic goods and commodities.

He said power rate adjustments were “market-driven” and “depend on demand and supply.”

“But there are also safeguards placed in the law to protect the rights of consumers if it would be shown that the increase is unreasonable, excessive and not based on the movement of market forces,” he said.

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